Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions relating to Transplant Week, organ donation and the work of the NHS Blood & Transplant.

What Are You Waiting For? Activity

Organ donation

What is organ donation? Organ donation is the gift of an organ to help someone who needs a transplant. The generosity of donors and their families enables over 3,000 people in the UK every year to take on a new lease of life.

Why are even more donors needed? Every year 1,000 people die while waiting for an organ transplant and many others lose their lives before they even get on to the transplant list. There is a serious shortage of organs and the gap between the number of organs donated and the number of people waiting for a transplant is increasing.

Transplants are very successful and the number of people needing a transplant is expected to rise steeply due to an ageing population, an increase in kidney failure and scientific advances which mean that more people are now able to benefit from a transplant.

However, the number of organs available for transplantation has fallen for several reasons. Only a very small number of people die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs. Because organs have to be transplanted very soon after someone has died they can only be donated by someone who has died in hospital. Usually organs come from people who are certified dead while on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit, generally as a result of a brain haemorrhage, major accident like a car crash, or stroke. The numbers of people, particularly younger people, dying in these circumstances is falling, mainly because of welcome improvements in road safety, medical advances in the treatment of patients and the prevention of strokes in younger people.

Another major reason for the shortage of organs is that many people have not recorded their wishes about donation or discussed it with their families. Too few people have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register and made sure that their families know their wishes.

While only a very few people die in circumstances which would enable their organs to be donated, many people can donate tissue after their death. Scientific and medical advances in the treatments that are available for patients has led to an increased need for donated tissue.

Why do I need to make a decision about whether to become a donor? In the UK organs and tissue from a potential donor will only be used if that is their wish. You can indicate your wishes on the form when registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register, but please remember to discuss this with your family and friends. Putting your name on the Register makes it easier for the NHS to establish your wishes and for those closest to you in life to follow them.

If your wishes are not clear, the person closest to you in life will be asked what they think you would have wanted, so it is important that you make sure they are aware of your views on organ donation.

What is the NHS Organ Donor Register? The NHS Organ Donor Register is, quite literally, a life-saver. It is a confidential, computerised database which holds the wishes of more than 17 million people who have decided that, after their death, they want to leave a legacy of life for others. The register is used to help establish whether a person wanted to donate and, if so, what.

Who can join the NHS Organ Donation Register? Everyone irrespective of age or health and who is considered legally competent can join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Joining the Register expresses a wish to help others by donating organs for use in transplantation after death but importantly, joining the Register also is a way to give legal consent or authorisation for donation to take place.

Your entry in the Register provides legal consent for the donation of your organs.

Children can register but their parents, guardians or those with parental responsibility will be asked to provide their consent should the child's death lead to donation being considered.

Where can I find out more about organ donation? More Frequently Asked Questions can be found at: NHS Organ Donation website

NHS Blood and Transplant

What is NHS Blood & Transplant? NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a Special Health Authority in the NHS with responsibility for optimising the supply of blood, organs, and tissues and raising the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of blood and transplant services.

Where can I find out more about NHSBT? Please visit our website: for more information, annual reports etc.


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